Daily Egyptian

Saluki Football holds eighth annual Fan Fest

By Ryan Demer, Sports Reporter

Zymrih Hughlett, seven months, of Carbondale, sits inside the Saluki’s shoulder pads on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, at the Saluki Football Fan Fest, at Saluki Stadium. (Carson VanBuskirk | @carsonvanbDE)

The eighth annual Saluki Fan Fest, held on Thursday night, gave fans in attendance a chance to interact with the SIU football program on the field just one week before the official start of the 2018 season.

The event provided activities for young fans to partake in as well as free ice cream distributed by Prairie Farms.

There was an inflatable bounce house, a dunk tank, a LEGO-building station and an area for younger fans to dress up as a Saluki player.

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Players and coaches signed free posters and handed out copies of the season schedule to the fans. Players took time to toss a football back and forth with them.

“This is awesome, just talking to the fans, it’s what we do it for,” Jeremy Chinn, junior defensive back, said. “Being in southern Illinois and seeing all the people we represent in our jerseys, it’s cool to be around it.”

Kraig Paulson, Saluki assistant head coach and third-year defensive coordinator, voiced approval for the event.

“Fan Fest is wonderful,” Paulson said. “Anytime you can get the fans out there when it’s not game day, they get the chance to know the players.”

Paulson said that the event gave his team an opportunity to evolve as adults.

“It’s good for our players,” Paulson said. “It helps them develop as adults by taking care of other people and putting effort into something that’s not playing.”

(See more: Fans, Saluki football hit the field at the seventh annual Fan Fest)

Saluki fans had a chance to speak with the players before watching them suit up from the stands.

“It’s a good thing that our program puts on,” Sam Straub, senior quarterback, said. “It’s nice for people in the community to come out to meet the players and connect with them before the season starts.”

Longtime Southern fans and even some newer fans were all able to participate in the event.

“It’s beautiful here, I love this event,” Carmen Sanchez, mother to a student and SIU fan, said. “Being from Puerto Rico, everyone here has been so respectful, I love this area.”

The Saluki Football team begins their season Aug. 30 in Murray, Kentucky in a non-conference opener against the Murray State Racers. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Sports writer Ryan Demer can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RyanDemer_DE

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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